Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Homes & Cremation Services is in negotiations to be acquired by Service Corporation International, a Houston-based giant in the funeral industry, potentially ending more than 100 years of family ownership and reducing Austin’s roster of independently owned funeral homes by one of its largest members.
The deal could close within a week, according to Laurens Fish III, the funeral home’s managing partner.
“The ownership may change, but I’m not going anywhere and our staff isn’t going anywhere,” Fish said. “We’re going to continue to serve families like we always have.”
Weed-Corley-Fish has rebuffed previous overtures from Service Corporation International and other consolidators in the funeral services industry over the years, Fish said. He declined to discuss his reasons for a possible sale now because the deal hasn’t been completed, except to say that it “feels like a good direction to go for the company.”
Service Corporation International said in a prepared statement Friday afternoon that Weed-Corley-Fish “will continue to serve client families in the Austin area with the same level of service excellence they have come to expect.”
The company also said it isn’t planning to make any changes to Weed-Corley-Fish’s management or staff.
A number of independent funeral services companies operate in Austin, including Austin-Peel and Son Funeral Home, King-Tears Mortuary, All Faiths Funeral Services, Mission Funeral Home, Phillips-Upshaw & Richard Funeral Home, Angel Funeral Home and Harrell Funeral Homes.
But Weed-Corley-Fish, with four Austin metro locations, is widely considered the largest of them. Now, however, it appears it will be going the route of Cook-Walden in Austin, which was bought by Service Corporation International in 1993.
Fish said his company will be operated independently from Cook-Walden if the sale is completed.
Fish’s peers in the local funeral sector said the pending deal took them by surprise, largely because of Weed-Corley-Fish’s long history in Austin.
“It was a shocker,” said Gilbert Cavazos, funeral director for All Faiths Funeral Services in Austin, who heard rumblings about the sale earlier this week. “They’ve been family-owned and operated for a long time.”
Cavazos said funeral operators in Austin have a cordial relationship, often lending each other the use of vehicles and other resources, and he doesn’t expected that to change regardless of ownership structure.
“I’ll always be there for them, whether they’re family-owned or corporate-owned,” he said.
Weed-Corley-Fish’s roots in Austin date back to 1886, according to Fish, who is a fourth-generation funeral director. His father, Laurens Fish Jr., who worked at Weed-Corley-Fish for more than 35 years, is now retired.
Service Corporation International, which describes itself as “North America’s leading provider of deathcare products and services,” operates more than 1,500 funeral homes and more than 450 cemeteries across the U.S. and Canada. The publicly traded company had revenue of more than $3 billion in 2016, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Its brands include Dignity Memorial and Funeraria Del Angel, among others.